Hello, my name is Taylor and I am a sophomore this year. In June I went to Tanzania, Africa for 2 weeks with Waterford’s Outdoor Program. We spent one week hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, a little less than a week at safaris, and the last day did some service at an orphanage.
I’ll start with the mountain. Let’s just say it was hard. At first the hiking was fun and easy. Not too steep and starting off in a rainforest climate with not very high altitude. The vegetation was beautiful and we saw monkeys and lots of beautiful wildlife. That didn’t last long. After the rainforest climate zone we reached what was called the Heathland climate zone and the dramatic line that separates the zones was one of the most interesting and spectacular things I’ve ever seen.
As the days went on the hiking got more and more exhausting. While the hiking itself didn’t change much other than the different views of each of the climate zones it became increasingly harder to breathe and to feel energized. Camp became more and more appreciated and we all liked to hang out in a huge dome tent called the space station. Although we didn’t want to leave camp we would and continued to slowly transition into the Alpine desert climate zone and finally the arctic summit zone. Summit day was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. I woke up very sick, in pain, and could barely breathe. It was so exhausting to walk you just always wanted to take a break but when u would u just want to get back up and walk again because of how cold it was.
Despite the struggling I finally made it to the 19,341 foot summit. Having the will to keep going and fighting through all of the struggling really impacted me and made me realize I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was before. It also made me more confident particularly in my work and in the sports I play. When we hiked down and had finally reached the bottom we all danced with the porters and guides who made the whole thing possible and it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever participated in. Everyone was excited and genuinely happy.
In the days that followed we went on multiple Safaris and to Masai villages. We saw the most beautiful animals. We witnessed hundreds of zebras running in and out of a water hole back and forth back and forth. We saw multiple elephants, including juveniles, walk right in front of the car. We enjoyed a lot of beautiful wild life but the most memorable thing we caught sight of was three female lions eating a zebra carcass not too far from the road. They were close enough they would look at you between bites and you could hear the ripping of the zebra’s flesh. It is indescribable how amazing it was watching the top of the African food chain do its work so close to us. It’s incredible how these animals can thrive off the yellow land they graze upon.
At the villages, we went and saw their huts and their kindergarten and saw how they live. It was super interesting seeing how they live off the land and I was extremely interested to learn that it is actually the women who build the huts. After that we bartered for the jewelry they made.
The last day was probably my favorite. We all went to an orphanage and did some service. We helped bring buckets full of sand up to a pile near their livestock and we helped start to dig dirt to level the ground on and next to their driveway. When we weren’t working we were playing basketball or soccer with the older kids or playing with the toddlers. The older kids were so helpful to the younger ones and they all participated so much in helping out that it gave me more motivation to be nicer and be more involved with my sister. Doing that work, even though it wasn’t much of it, made me feel fulfilled and gave me a sense of purpose. It made me feel an overwhelming happiness that I hadn’t felt before and showed me how great helping others, even in a small way, can make a big difference on their and my own life.
Having these unbelievable adventures with my classmates and teachers made the whole thing so enjoyable and fun. I now am super close to them and feel like they, with their stories, have impacted me the most. I made beautiful friendships with people I never would have talked to otherwise. Listening to them open up to the rest of the group or me individually had an immense impact on my openness to others and helped me lose the fear of putting yourself out there to make new friends. The trip gave me perfect memories and built my character and confidence more than any other experience I have ever had. I will never forget the experience or be able to thank my marvelous teachers Dr. Malatesta and Mr. Watkins enough for everything they did for me to make that dream a reality. Thank you.